Applying for a new role: How to stand out from the crowd

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It is a question we get asked by even the most seasoned of senior execs; how do I make sure my CV stands out from the crowd when applying for a new role?

And as the old adage goes; “inspiration can come from anywhere”. 

That is most definitely the case for Barron Williams this month… 

The East Lothian Courier is not a publication on our radar. A fine publication it may be. What do you mean you missed it?

However, an interesting article was shared with us from a friend on our Network that told the story of a Business Analyst who launched his CV into space in order to find a new role.

No, you didn’t misread, we said Space!

This is an interesting (and new one to us) approach to applying for a new role. But in a way it sort of makes sense. Bear with…

The article explains how this came about:

“Online job board Zoek ran a competition through March and April and three lucky jobseekers had their CVs placed on a digital billboard and sent to space to give a stratospheric boost to their visibility.” 

David Hinley from Haddington in East Lothian, Scotland was one of three lucky jobseekers who saw their CV blasted into orbit in a world-first stunt to celebrate Star Wars Day on May the 4th (be with you). 

They go on to say:

David saw his CV – along with that of Lucy Russell and Sam Kapadia – presented in space using a hydrogen-filled balloon the size of a two-storey house, which carried the digital display over 100,000 feet above the Earth. The launch vehicle, constructed and flown by aerospace company Sent Into Space, also carried tracking equipment to retrieve the craft after the balloon burst, and cameras which filmed the stunning view of the CVs against the backdrop of the Earth from above.

To cut a long story short, David was successful in his approach, however, he was quoted in the article as saying:

“Since my last role ended in February 2020, I have submitted over 150 job applications. I have had positive feedback and several interviews but sadly no contracts.”

Now, this made us think…

What can you do to make your CV stand out when applying for a new role?

Sending it into space is a novel idea but maybe a little extreme. 

Great PR/Marketing for all involved, no doubt. Maybe a little difficult to read without the Hubble Telescope too?

Post-COVID many have found themselves in a similar position to David though. 

Many have also seen the easing of the pandemic as the kick up the backside they need to make that next move. 

They’ve taken stock and are now looking to make a positive change. 

But not just any old change…

Organisations are also looking to shake things up in light of both positive and negative outcomes of the pandemic, and more recently our old friend the B (rexit) word.

Interesting (but good) times ahead!

UK Recruitment Market Post Covid

Neil Carberry, the Chief Executive of the REC, was quoted in the latest KPMG & REC report on the UK Job Market as saying: 

“The jobs market is improving at one of the fastest rates we have ever seen, and that’s great news. We are bouncing back from a record low – and many people are still struggling – but the data shows that job creation is firing up again. This month’s numbers for permanent hiring are the best we’ve seen since the survey started in 1997. Temporary hiring has chalked up its ninth straight month of growth, demonstrating again how important temporary agency work is to getting families and businesses back on their feet.”

He continued to say:

“The message for government and employers alike is that the long-term challenge is less likely to be high unemployment than attracting and training enough staff to keep our economy firing. Companies need to be thinking about their workforce planning and employee offer, which professional recruitment firms are best placed to support them with. Government needs to urgently tackle shortfalls in the skills system, and make sure the new immigration system is more responsive to our economic needs.” 

The main take-aways from the April 2021 report is that we’re seeing a rapid increase in recruitment as coronavirus restrictions begin to ease. That is coupled with the steepest rise in vacancies for over 23 years… 

All good news for Barron Williams and those looking for or thinking of looking for a new role!

The profile of Senior Executives

If we jump back to Mr Hinley, the article mentions that his age is 65. That can be a difficult age to find yourself out of work. 

At the later stages of your career, you have the experience, but that isn’t always as valued as you may hope.

I don’t want to get into a debate about ageism in this post but, in short, don’t let it stop you!

As we mentioned earlier, the age profile of the senior executive market reflects this. 

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, you don’t get to the top without putting the work in. There’s a correlation, a reason why you’ve achieved.

Tellingly however, a 2019 report by search firm Robert Half looked at the anatomy of the CEO and highlighted that: 

“Age, education and gender diversity remain stagnant” in the FTSE 100. 

They go on to say that:

“The average age for a FTSE CEO is 55; unchanged from the previous two years, while 18% are Oxbridge educated, unchanged from 2018 and increasing from 16% in 2017. Furthermore, despite numerous initiatives to improve gender representation in the boardroom, the number of female CEOs has decreased from 7% in 2018 to 6%.”

Talent and handwork is important but we’re a long way from the level playing field. …Bias exists.

Whilst we definitely need a better boardroom representation in terms of gender, race, background, etc, age is a tricky one due to its close relationship with experience. 

How to stand out from the crowd

As senior executives and managers, you have the experience, but the market moves slow, the roles are fewer and far between, so the ability to stand out is imperative. As Mr Hinley knows only too well!

So how do you make sure that CV stands out from the crowd?

1. Demonstrate Experience

  • Show you’re a safe pair of hands
    Demonstrate energy through your achievements.
  • Enthusiasm is a positive
    Be dynamic in your choice of words.
  • Research the company and sector
    Show your ‘workings’ in a brief cover letter.
  • Be proactive about your application
    Call the hiring manager/recruiter and ‘pursue your interest’.
  • Treat every interaction as part of the interview process
    You’re being assessed constantly. 
  • Be proactive
    Take ownership – Polite but persistent and professional, like you!
  • Tailor your CV to the organisation and the role brief
    …But if you’re not the right ‘fit’ don’t apply.
  • Talk the same language
    Put some effort in. Focus. What do they really want?
  • Demonstrate you’ve read and fully understand the role brief
    Show how your experience makes you the right choice. If you can’t convince yourself, you won’t convince your audience!
  • This is a two way street too
    Make them want to call you.
  • Be open with us
    Work with us and we will work with you.

2. Focus Your Search

Applying for a 150 roles? Was there really a 150 relevant roles nearby?

Don’t apply for roles where you don’t ‘match the spec’.

It is irrelevant that you could do it.

How focussed is your search? Find roles that they want you to do.

Ask yourself, am I what they want? If no, stop right there.

If you can’t match yourself to 80% plus of the brief, then don’t apply. The scattergun approach will quickly demoralise and you won’t get the interview, never mind the offer. 

If appropriate, target individual recruiters who can help you achieve your goal and best support your search. If someone specialises in your sector, make sure they know you. A good HRD in your sector may know some?

We discussed this in depth in our how to apply for the right roles post earlier this year.

Take a step back and ask why am I getting so many rejections? Be honest with yourself.

Did you get feedback from the recruiter/hiring manager? If not, why not? Do it.

Are others simply better suited to the role? That’s OK if so but find out.

Ask why? Where did you fall short? Something you can fix?

Is your interview technique letting you down? How did you do? Can you improve?

Again, ask? 

Learn from every process, refine your activity – To win!

3. Focus Your Approach

Get your CV ready. Concise, focussed. Achievements not responsibilities.

Sell yourself with measurable value not adjectives (OK, maybe one or two).

Do you really need to pay for somebody to write your CV? Surely nobody should sell you better than you? Get advice and feedback from 2 03 trusted advisors first.

Tailor your CV to the role and company you’re applying for. 

2 – 3 pages. Focussed on the matter in hand. How you best match/fit the brief.

Make sure your LinkedIn profile is up to date and marketing you correctly. 

A professional profile picture, full career history. Keep it concise but enough to prompt a recruiter to get in touch.

A good short covering letter is often overlooked but in many ways is as important as the CV. 

2 paragraphs is all you need. But tailor it. Every time.

1st paragraph, approx 3 to 4 lines of text stating why you’re interested in the company/role. 

2nd paragraph, again 3 to 4 lines of text succinctly explaining why you’re a good fit for the role and your relevant experience.

Avoid the generic – Tailored. Targeted. Professional. Like you mean business.

In the end, after a long search, David was successful, and congratulations to him. 

And that is the moral of this story I suppose. 

Stay focussed. Stay positive. Keep going.

And whilst we’re not advising you send your CV into space.

Do look at how you can stand out in an often crowded playing field!

If you’re looking for your next senior executive role, then please feel free to Upload Your CV or Call Us for an exploratory conversation.

If you’re looking for a senior executive search partner for your organisation, then please use our Client Upload Form or Call Us now.

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